Rise in soybean yield despite erratic rainfall

New Delhi, November 1:

India is expecting a five percent increase in soybean crop this year despite an erratic monsoon that spoilt what could have been a bumper harvest.

“The estimated crop production is 6.13 million tonnes for 2005-06 as compared to 5.85 million tonnes last year,” said Rajesh Agarwal, chairperson of the Indore-based Soybean Processors Association of India (SOPA). Last year rainfall failed during the final poding stage, resulting in smaller grain size. “This year the rain gods have been kind and the September rains, though less in quantity, have filled the pods well. Therefore, the production is more than last year,” Agarwal told Himalayan News Service.

A higher overseas demand for the non-genetically modified variety of Indian soybean meal as well as a higher domestic consumption of the protein-rich legume has led to more Indian farmers undertaking its cultivation.

The results are, however, far below expectations, considering that soybean was cultivated over larger acreage this year. Deficient rains in August had played havoc during the flowering stage of the crop, leading to lower productivity.

“Last year the all India average yield was 812 kg per hectare while this year’s expected average yield is 799 kg per hectare. The increased crop size this year is expected mainly because of a larger area cover under soybean,” said Agarwal.

Maharashtra contributed largely to the increase in soybean cultivation with over 25 percent increase in crop coverage. This has largely compensated for the decrease in yield in Maharashtra, where it is expected to be only 822 kg per hectare this year against 914 kg last year.

Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have also shown higher production and larger area coverage under soybean this year. The industry body has urged the agriculture ministry to urgently address speculation that the government is considering cutting import duty of crude palm oil to help import of more edible oil to match domestic demand.

“On behalf of SOPA and its members, we would like to urge that any such consideration at this point of time would not be in the overall interest of the oilseed farmers as well as trade and industry,” it said in a memorandum.

SOPA has pointed out that industries are paying a far higher price of Rs.1,160 per quintal than the Rs.1,000 per quintal fixed by the government as the minimum price.

“As you are aware, the soybean crop has already started arriving in the market. Any proposal for reduction of customs duty on crude palm oil would send a wrong signal at this point of time and depress the prices of oilseeds, particularly soybean, which is presently arriving in the wholesale market in large volumes,” SOPA has urged.

The industry body fears that besides the lower than expected yield, the lower price may turn away small farmers from further cultivation of oilseeds like soybean. India, the largest importer of edible oil, has been encouraging farmers to step up cultivation of oilseeds to help reduce dependence on imports.